No. 6606’s Last Bow

September 19, 2016 at 8:12 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In honor of mid-September, with summer slowly slipping into autumn, here’s a seldom-seen bit of advertising from 102 years ago this very month:

thiefs-daughter-ad

This bit of vintage promotion comes from the September 26, 1914 issue  of The Literary Digest, hyping (among other things) the last of Jack Boyle’s original quartet of Boston Blackie stories.  “A Thief’s Daughter” was the final yarn to bear Boyle’s No. 6606 pseudonym, and the first appearance of Blackie’s beloved Mary.  With illustrations from N.C. Wyeth, the tale made for an excellent final bow to Boyle’s American Magazine readers.  It would be another three years before Boston Blackie would surface again, in the pages of The Red Book.

JBF  9/19/16

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Ed Hoch, Ray Long and the Chicago Conundrum

April 15, 2016 at 9:31 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Back in 2011, I posted an entry here titled “Ed Hoch and Jack Boyle” which discussed, among other things, the misconception that Boyle was born in Chicago.  Hoch made this misstatement regarding Boyle’s hometown in the introduction to Gregg Press’ reprint of the 1919 hardcover collection Boston Blackie, and since that time the inaccuracy has wormed its way into numerous biographical entries.  When I asked Ed where that bit of data came from, he said that he had gotten it from Boyle’s 1914 autobiographical sketch, A Modern Opium Eater.  At the time, I took this answer at face value, but upon later examination, the essay revealed no such reference.  Since my correspondence with Ed took place years after his research for the Gregg Press introduction, I’m sure this was a case of his memory simply failing him.  But we’re still left with the mystery of where the idea of Boyle’s Chicago birth came from.

I’ve puzzled over this for years, to no avail.  How do you trace a decades-old fallacy to its source?  Then recently, while pursuing an entirely different avenue of Boston Blackie research, I stumbled across this passage from the Lothrop, Lee and Shephard Company’s 1932 anthology 20 Best Stories in Ray Long’s 20 Years as an Editor:

And then one day there came into my office in Chicago a tall, handsome chap who announced himself as Jack Boyle, 6606.  He had recently been freed from prison, where he had written the articles for The Americanand had returned to his old home in Chicago.

So it was Jack Boyle’s long-time editor Ray Long who, in a memoriam published just a few years after the Boston Blackie creator’s death, mistakenly credited Chicago as the locale of his birth.  Long must have somehow misheard or misconstrued Boyle’s comment about returning to “his old home in Chicago.”  It is entirely possible that Jack had, indeed, resided in Chicago at some time prior to his visit to Long’s office in 1917.  Large chunks of his life between 1909 and 1915 are a blank, and Jack was known to have traveled the Midwestern states.  It’s quite plausible that he lived in Chicago at some point during this gap.  But his remark about returning to “his old home in Chicago” did not mean he had returned to his birthplace, just to a place he had lived previously.  Census records have long since documented Boyle’s 1881 birth in the State of California, and this is corroborated by his World War I draft registration card.  A simple misunderstanding of a friend’s casual remark caused Ray Long to write something which spawned a chain of misinformation for over eight decades.  It’s amazing how easily an idea — even a mistaken one — becomes fact, just because it has been written down.

JBF  4/15/16

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The Riddle of the Bogus Boyle – Revisited!

March 7, 2016 at 10:02 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Last year, I published an entry on April 27, 2015 titled “The Riddle of the Bogus Boyle,” in which I presented an item from the magazine The Writer.  It spoke of an impostor who stole the identities of both Jack Boyle and fellow author Courtney Ryley Cooper in the early 1920s, bilking money from publishers and movie producers through the imposture.  At the time, I pointed out that the physical description of this literary hoaxer sounded suspiciously like the man who impersonated author Rufus Steele in Denver, Colorado around 1914, a one-time crony of Jack Boyle before the pair had a violent falling out.  While my comments were only educated speculation, further information has come to light which warrants giving the incident a second look.  The May 22, 1920 edition of The Los Angeles Herald included an item titled “Cooper Disowns Double in $800 Film MixUp,” detailing how the infamous impostor collected $800.00 from two Los Angeles film producers for stories he contracted to write as Courtney Ryley Cooper.  The article offers these enlightening comments from the real Mr. Cooper:

“Judging from the description of the gentleman, he is the person whom I exposed in Denver several years ago while he was masquerading under the name of Rufus Steele, the San Francisco author, claiming incidentally that he wrote under the name of Jack Boyle.  At that time he stated that his real name was William Steele and that he lived somewhere in Oklahoma  …  The funny part of it is he cannot write a line.  And the worst of it is that he doesn’t give poor Jack Boyle a chance.  Boyle’s a real flesh and blood person — but he’s only a nom de plume whenever Steele’s impersonations — if this is Steele — get up steam and start working.”

Still not proof positive that it was William F. “Rufus” Steele who stole the identities of Boyle and Courtney Ryley Cooper ninety-five years ago, but it certainly sounds as though Cooper believed it to be so.  And I can’t help but agree with him.

JBF  3/7/16

 

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THE BOSTON BLACKIE BOOK – 2016 PROGRESS REPORT #2

February 15, 2016 at 4:27 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I am happy to report that, so far in 2016, work on The Complete Boston Blackie is moving at the pace I projected in my in January progress report.  The “History of Boston Blackie” essay is now complete, and the biographical sketch of Jack Boyle is off to a good start.  As a bit of a sneak preview, here is the opening of the Boston Blackie piece:

“BOSTON BLACKIE KILLED” was the proclamation in the March 29, 1900 edition of The Saint Paul Globe.  At the time, Jack Boyle was an up-and-coming reporter in San Francisco, still more than a decade away from creating his infamous ebony-eyed safecracker of New England heritage, and yet Boston Blackie lay dying in a Michigan saloon.  Or, rather, a Boston Blackie lay dying.  While Boyle would make the name Boston Blackie known around the globe by the 1920s, the appellation was around long before he put pen to paper.  The checkered history of Boston Blackie encompasses a number of men (both real and fictional) all laying claim to the colorful sobriquet.

Thanks for the continued interest in this project, and I’ll be back with another update in a few weeks!

JBF – 2/15/16

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The Riddle of the Bogus Boyle

April 27, 2015 at 1:00 AM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

In early 1921, several trade publications catering to the writing and movie-making industries carried items similar to the following announcement from the April issue of the Boston based publication THE WRITER:

An impostor has been impersonating Courtney Ryley Cooper and Jack Boyle and these two writers have sent a printed circular of warning to editors.  They describe the man as six feet tall, with long hair brushed back from his forehead and strongly resembling Raymond Hitchcock in mannerism, cast of countenance, and general build, especially in size and shape of mouth and chin.  His name is not known … The Cooper-Boyle man is reported as having worked in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Texas, and the South in general, passing bad checks, etc.

That an impostor scammed money by passing bad checks in Jack Boyle’s name is ironic, as the real Boyle was arrested several times over the years for actually committing that particular crime himself.  Likewise, it’s interesting that someone should assume the identity of Jack Boyle in the 1920s, as he had been party to a literary imposture just seven years earlier.  In 1914, Boyle was granted early parole from the Canon City Penitentiary in Colorado, largely due to the efforts of celebrated San Francisco author Rufus Steele, who was visiting Denver at the time.  Upon his release, Boyle secured employment with THE SUNLIGHT MAGAZINEa newly-founded Denver publication, and soon was able to convince author Steele to submit stories and articles to the fledgling magazine to help establish a readership.  The endeavor collapsed in a matter of weeks, however, when it was revealed that the man calling himself “Rufus” Steele was, in fact, a charlatan named Wililam F. Steele, who had been travelling the country impersonating the well-known west coast writer.  Boyle claimed to be ignorant of the deception, but did admit that he had written everything appearing in THE SUNLIGHT under Steele’s byline.

So, in 1914 Jack Boyle was “innocently” involved in the theft of another writer’s identity, though accounts from the period identify the impostor himself as William F. Steele.  Strange that Boyle should be party to a literary imposture, only to have his own identity stolen in a similar circumstance by an unknown fraudster just a few years later.  Or is the impostor so unknown?

Hitchcock-Steele

The man pictured on the left above is actor Raymond Hitchcock, a popular performer on the silent screen.  The 1921 announcement in THE WRITER says that the man impersonating Boyle bore a resemblance to Hitchcock in countenance and build.  Pictured on the right is is William F. Steele, known literary impostor who passed himself off as Rufus Steele on multiple occasions, both before and after his association with Jack Boyle.  While the two are not identical, there is a more than passing resemblance between them.

Can it be mere coincidence that Boyle’s identity was stolen by a man who resembled Raymond Hitchcock, when he had previously been associated with just such a man in a scheme to impersonate a well-known writer?  While the connection is unlikely to ever be definitively proven at this late date, a visual comparison certainly suggests that William F. Steele probably expanded the scope of his literary impersonations to trade off the celebrity of his old crony Jack Boyle.  Since this is all merely educated speculation, whether or not Boyle suspected the identity of his impersonator is open to debate.  But given that the Denver newspapers reported a falling out between the pair in 1914 which culminated in Boyle giving Steele a public beating, I suspect I can guess the outcome had Jack encountered his old friend again in 1921.

JBF 4/27/15

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Jack Boyle at a Glance

April 6, 2015 at 1:00 AM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Much has been written here about Jack Boyle as the creator of Boston Blackie, all peppered with various hints and intimations about his checkered history.  But who was he, and why was he so uniquely suited to write the tales of the underworld which brought him such success in his lifetime?  While this subject could cover entire volumes, let’s take a look at the highlights of Boyle’s life at a glance.

Jack Boyle was born in California in 1881, somewhere in the vicinity of Oakland and San Francisco.  He grew up around Santa Clara, and in his early adulthood became a newsman and reporter (following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who had both published newspapers in the 1800s).  Beginning around 1900, he was employed by various papers in San Francisco, and by 1907 had worked himself into editorial and managerial positions.  However, his professional success took a toll on him, and around 1909 he became a habitual user of opium, to combat the stresses of his job.  His habit soon became an addiction, which quickly spelled the end of his journalistic career in California.  His professional disgrace was followed by a rapid spiral into a life of crime, in order to feed his continuing opium craving.

By 1914, Boyle had run afoul of the law on multiple occasions, and had served prison sentences in both California and Colorado, on a variety of charges from forgery to armed robbery.  While serving out a sentence near Denver, he began writing stories from his prison cell.  These proved to be the first tales of his criminal hero Boston Blackie, and they were picked up for publication in THE AMERICAN MAGAZINE.  Late in 1914, Boyle was released from prison, and returned to working in the world of newspaper and magazine writing.  In 1917, he revived Boston Blackie for a new series of stories in THE RED BOOK MAGAZINE, and these tales found a strong following with the reading public.  The following year, his work continued to appear regularly in RED BOOK, and Boston Blackie came to the silver screen in the first of many feature films to be adapted from his adventures.  Soon the popularity of these features opened the door for Boyle to embark on a new career as a Hollywood screenwriter, while still producing fiction for nationally known magazines.  In just a few short years, Boyle had gone from drug addicted felon to successful and celebrated author.

However, to paint Boyle’s story as one of disgrace to triumph is a lopsided portrait, at best.  While it’s tempting to view his rise from the shadows of a prison cell to national prominence as a success story, the reality is far less black and white.  The entirety of Jack Boyle’s career is a strange mixture of success and scandal.

In truth, there are indications that his 1914 release from prison was acquired under false pretenses, and his subsequent activities in Denver culminated in his fleeing the state within a matter of months.  His February 1915 arrival in Missouri was no less turbulent, with Boyle being arrested in Kansas City just days after taking up residence there.  Despite his rocky start in the community, Boyle managed to establish himself in the city, securing a reporting position with THE KANSAS CITY POST, and setting up housekeeping with a woman named Violet.  During his time in THE POST’s employ, he traveled to Iowa gathering story material, and became embroiled in some questionable dealings relating to the investigation of a set of ax murders in the town of Villisca.  Boyle’s time in Kansas City ended as scandalously as it began, when he was arrested in January 1917, accused of running an opium den.  While legitimate speculations can be made about the veracity of this charge, and the possible political motivation behind Boyle’s arrest, what cannot be argued is that Boyle ultimately skipped bail and fled to Wisconsin.

With wife Violet in tow, he settled in the Baraboo, Wisconsin area in the summer of 1917.  At this point, he shifted his primary professional focus away from journalism, concentrating more on the production of fiction for popular magazines.  It was during this period that he renewed his acquaintance with editor Ray Long, and began contributing frequently to THE RED BOOK MAGAZINE.  The years of 1918 to 1920 were a time of prosperity for Boyle, with the popularity of Boston Blackie (both in print and on movie screens) reaching international proportions.  He continued publishing frequently in RED BOOK, but also signed a contract in 1919 to write Blackie stories exclusively for THE COSMOPOLITAN MAGAZINE.  His writings were also seeing print in newspapers and magazines overseas, and Hollywood was purchasing the screen rights to much of his output.  The world wanted to hear the stories that Jack Boyle had to tell.

But by the end of 1920, his fortunes started to shift.  While his career roared along full-steam, things in his personal life began to disintegrate.  In April, Boyle signed a mortgage on a second home, a ranch in Colorado, and in June he and Violet decided to spend the summer at their new property.  Sometime during this holiday, things turned sour.  Boyle separated from his wife around January 1921, leaving the taxes on the ranch unpaid, and moving to New York.  In July, Boyle officially lost his ranch to foreclosure, and the following month Violet filed for divorce from him in the Colorado courts.

Spending a year in New York, Boyle met and married a woman named Elsie Thomas, and moved to Los Angeles sometime in 1922.  While he continued to write for the magazine market, his move to the west coast also marked his leap into the world of screenwriting.  Spurred by the film industry’s continuing interest in adapting his magazine stories, Boyle began writing original scenarios directly for the studios.  However, in the summer of 1923 his new Hollywood life was thrown into turmoil, with the arrival of his first wife, Violet, and her claims that their divorce had never been finalized.  Over the next year, she publicly decried him as a bigamist, and made repeated demands for a financial settlement to complete their divorce.

Despite his success at transitioning into work in the film industry, scandal continued to plague Boyle throughout his Hollywood years.  In August 1924, he was arrested for passing bad checks in a Los Angeles grocery.  He had further run-ins with the law over the frequent escapes of his pet – a full-grown bear – which ran loose through the north Hollywood suburbs.  In September, newspapers reported a violent argument between his two wives, which ended in Elsie giving Violet a severe beating.  In October, Violet again filed for divorce from Jack, and Elsie was temporarily committed to a psychiatric ward after several unsuccessful attempts to kill herself.  Finally, in November the California courts awarded Violet her divorce, ordering Boyle to pay her one hundred dollars a month in alimony.

Around 1926, Boyle moved from Hollywood to a home in nearby Hermosa Beach. His magazine output had slowed over the previous years, though sporadic stories bearing his byline continued to appear while he pursued his work as a screenwriter.  But by ’26, even his screen assignments began to thin.  In 1927, he and Elsie moved back to New York, taking an apartment in Greenwich Village.  He was still reported to be dabbling in screenplays, and in December he published his last short story for RED BOOK.

Late in the summer of 1928, Boyle and Elsie took an extended trip back to the Pacific coast, where he engaged in some work as a publicist for the Oregon State Democratic Committee.  Late in the night of October 15, 1928, he suffered acute kidney failure in a hotel room in Portland, Oregon, and died just three days shy of his 47th birthday.

So ends the strange and sordid tale of Jack Boyle (or at least a thumbnail sketch of it).  Of course, Boston Blackie remained a popular subject of movies, radio and television shows well into the 1950s, with the character even seeing a minor revival in the 21st century as the protagonist in a pair of graphic novels.  But where Blackie has endured, Boyle has largely faded into obscurity.  Which is a shame, because in many ways his life was even more interesting than the yarns he wrote.  My upcoming book, THE COMPLETE BOSTON BLACKIE, will include a far more in depth look at the life and times of the author.  But in the meantime, be sure to check back here for further glimpses into the colorful life of Jack Boyle.

JBF 4/6/15

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On the Set with Jack Boyle

March 30, 2015 at 9:19 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

After last week’s announcement of the discovery of two long-lost Boston Blackie stories, it’s difficult to follow up with anything nearly as exciting this time around.  But I have managed to dig a special treat up from the depths of the archives.  Scads of pictures exist of Boston Blackie in his various onscreen incarnations.  But presented here, for the first time in 93 years, is a photo of Jack Boyle on the set of a Hollywood production.

Exhibitors Trade Review 7-1-22

This image was first presented in the July 1, 1922 issue of the motion picture industry publication Exhibitor’s Trade Reviewas part of their coverage of the big budget Boston Blackie feature THE FACE IN THE FOG.  Few photos of Boyle are known to exist today, so it’s fascinating to find one presenting him collaborating on bringing one of his stories to the silver screen.

JBF  3/30/15

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BREAKING NEWS … An Exciting Boston Blackie Discovery!

March 26, 2015 at 8:12 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

How many Boston Blackie stories did Jack Boyle publish?  This has been a point of contention for years.  H.K. Fly’s often-reprinted 1919 collection presented seven Blackie tales, which for nearly a century were the only specimens of Boyle’s writing available in book form.  But when this volume was republished by Gregg Press in 1979, Ed Hoch’s introduction to the new edition pointed out that further Blackie exploits were chronicled in the AMERICAN, RED BOOK and COSMOPOLITAN magazines.  Ultimately, examinations of these periodicals brought to light another fourteen Blackie yarns, increasing the series’ total count to twenty-one.  For years, this was thought to represent Boyle’s complete output on his most celebrated creation — until the advent of the internet.  In the 21st century, research online revealed a “missing” Blackie story, serialized in THE LOS ANGELES TIMES five years after Boyle published his last story in THE COSMOPOLITAN.  This curtain call to the Boston Blackie adventures was eventually reprinted in Coachwhip Publications’ 2012 collection BOSTON BLACKIE & FRIENDS, definitively setting the count of the complete Blackie saga at twenty-two.

Until now.

I’m thrilled to announce the discovery of not one, but TWO hitherto unknown Boston Blackie stories, both from the pen of Jack Boyle.  The pair, written in a period during which Boyle’s literary output had primarily turned away from his rogue hero, has languished for more than ninety years in the pages of a publication not typically associated with the author.  Through a kindness of Providence, their existence was discovered in time to allow for their inclusion in my upcoming collection THE COMPLETE BOSTON BLACKIE.  Of course, preparing the texts for publication will mean a further delay in a project that is already behind schedule, but I’m happy to run beyond my original deadline if it means presenting all twenty-four installments of the Blackie canon in their entirety.

And speaking of the Blackie canon in its entirety, let me go on record to confirm that ALL of Jack Boyle’s published Blackie stories do still exist.  Some speculation to the contrary has arisen on Amazon’s pages reviewing Coachwhip’s BOSTON BLACKIE & FRIENDS.  At least one post on that site postulates that the stories “The Poppy Girl’s Husband” and “Miss Doris, Safecracker” may be lost to the crumbling pages of magazines originally considered a disposable medium of entertainment.  Thankfully, such speculation is incorrect.  I have located copies of both tales, as well as an alternate version of “The Poppy Girl’s Husband,” based on Jack Boyle’s original text but re-imagined by an entirely different author.  There’s always the possibility that another unknown story could surface, but there is no danger that any of the currently known Blackie stories is “lost.”  My goal is to have the complete collection available in both print and digital editions by the end of 2015.  Stay tuned for further details …

JBF  3/26/15

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Jack Boyle and the Innkeeper’s Daughter

August 29, 2011 at 8:11 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

One of the oddest anecdotes that my ongoing research has brought to light comes from the pen of a writer other than Jack Boyle.  Instead, it appeared in the syndicated newspaper feature “Modern Parables” written by columnist and author Fulton Oursler  –  but, nonetheless, it raises questions about the creator of Boston Blackie.  Published in March 1950, the story was circulated more than two decades after Boyle’s death.  Here is the piece in its entirety:

 

“The Innkeeper’s Daughter”
By Fulton Oursler (from his MODERN PARABLES column of 3/5/50)

One of the strangest stories I know happened to the late Jack Boyle, fiction writer.  He was late on the deadline for a magazine yarn, and found himself
helpless at his typewriter.  For some reason, he was unable to to write; his mind was obsessed with another plot.  The story, struggling in his mind to be born, was not anything he wanted to write.  But he finally surrendered and now his fingers fairly flew over the keys: within two hours the manuscript was finished.  Then he read it over.  “This crazy piece is no good,” he said, tossing it aside.  Not for two years was he to look at it: not until an editor wired for a story in a hurry.  Once again the author read that unlikely tale.  It told of two brothers who enlisted in the war.  One night, while sleeping in a front line trench, the younger man had a dream.  He saw a battle coming to an end, smoke lifting, the coming of morning.  In deepening light he beheld a ladder into the sky.  Up this ladder two men were climbing.  One of the two was trying to climb upward, while the other held
stubbornly back.  The dreaming brother ran to the bottom of the ladder calling: “What does it mean?”  The lower of the figures replied: “There are two of me – there are two of everybody.  One is my higher, the other my lower self.  The higher self would rise, the lower holds back.”  The dreamer awoke, to receive word that his brother had been killed.  That was Jack’s queer manuscript, which soon was published in a magazine.  And then the author got a letter from an innkeeper’s daughter.

“To me your story of the higher and lower self is a matter of life and death.  I was in love with a boy named Ned.  When the war came, he enlisted, and we were married the night before he left.  He told me when we said good-by that if anything happened to him, his spirit was going to come back to me.  “He was killed four days before the Armistice was signed.  Ever since then I have been trying to get the message he promised me, but it has never come.  Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer; I went into an empty room in my father’s hotel, resolved to die.  But I noticed a magazine lying on the bed.  It was open at your story.  Now I have got to know whether that story is just made up – or whether it is true.  Did it really happen?  If it is true, then I think the reason Ned can’t get through to me is because my lower self is holding me back.  I am willing to follow my other self.  Please – is the story true?  If not, I can’t wait any longer.”

Jack felt strange as he sat down to answer her.  The story, he told her, was really true in its meaning for her.  The reply he got was astonishing.  She was going all the way to  France, where she would be a clerk, cataloging graves in the American cemetery where her husband was buried.  “You see,” she wrote, “I am going to be near him.”  More months passed by and then came the last letter Jack was ever to have from her:

“I want you to know how glad I was that I waited.  I am in a hospital here with tuberculosis.  The doctors tell me there is absolutely no hope.  In three months at the most I shall be with Ned.  Hasn’t God been good to me?”

 

This vignette is a total puzzle to me.  Is Mr. Oursler referring to Jack Boyle of Boston Blackie fame?  By the 1950s, Boyle was hardly a household name any longer, so Oursler’s mention of “Jack Boyle, fiction writer” with no further elaboration is surprising.  Even more curious is the story he relates.  Despite having unearthed some 40 of Boyle’s tales (his entire output of fiction, to the best of my knowledge), I have found no published counterpart to this unlikely yarn.  It’s certainly atypical of the remainder of his canon, but that is not proof that the story is not his.  So the question remains, is this an anecdote of another Jack Boyle, a fabrication, or are more Boyle stories still lurking out there, waiting to be discovered?

JBF 8/29/11

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The Other Jack Boyles

June 29, 2011 at 9:45 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

When I first dove into this project two decades ago, I hadn’t realized that one of my biggest stumbling blocks would be the name “Jack Boyle.” Try running a Google search on it, and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s an exceptionally common name, and even a casual pass at it will yield a staggering number of hits corresponding to scores of different people.  Without a doubt, there is only one creator of Boston Blackie, but history has given the world a multitude of Jack Boyles. Trying to narrow things  down to a single man brings the old cliché “a needle in a haystack” to mind.

Among my many such hindrances, the chief culprit is a major league baseball player known as “Honest Jack” Boyle.  This fellow gives me grief on several levels.  Not only do he and writer Boyle have the nickname “Jack” in common, but both also share the christian name John A. Boyle.  Also, both lived at roughly the same time (the late 19th century into the early 20th), so it’s impossible to use chronology alone to distinguish the two.  “Honest Jack” was born in Ohio, and made his major league debut in 1886 with the Cincinnati Red Stockings. His sports career extended through 1898, with stints playing for such teams as the St. Louis Browns, the Chicago Pirates, the New York Giants, and the Philadelphia Phillies.  After retiring from the game, he became a successful saloon owner, until his death from Bright’s Disease in 1913.

Still another successful Jack Boyle had a career which flourished during the early days of the 20th century (much to my chagrin).  This gentleman was a popular comedian and vaudeville performer, whose name appeared in newspaper announcements across the country in the 1910s and ‘20s.  He and partner Dave Kramer toured as “The Happy-Go-Lucky Pair,” and he also performed with fellow entertainer James Hussey.  Vaudeville’s Jack Boyle died July 8, 1933 in Lynbrook, near Long Island.

The 1920s alone had no shortage of Jack Boyles.  Along with the vaudevillian Boyle, a sportsman bearing the moniker received sporadic attention from the newspapers of the 1920s and ‘30s.  Little of his later career seems to have been documented, but for a time he was a noted West Coast boxing promoter, owning a gym in Los Angeles.  Also during this decade, a fictional Jack Boyle hit the scene.  In 1924, Dublin dramatist Sean O’Casey wrote JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK, featuring a drunken scoundrel named Captain Jack Boyle.  The show was the second installment in O’Casey’s “Dublin trilogy,” and became one of the most performed Irish plays of the 20th century.

Moving from Drama to Dance, another notable Jack Boyle began a screen career as a dancer and choreographer in the mid-1930s.  Jack Boyle Jr. was
born in Illinois in 1916, and broke into movies as an uncredited dancer in COLLEGE HOLIDAY (1936).  It is tempting to speculate that Boyle Jr. might have been the son of the Jack, since Boyle the writer did have connections to Chicago around 1916.  However, it seems unlikely, since writer Boyle was in and out of prison for so much of the mid-1910s.  One distinction of Boyle Jr. was a friendship with songwriter George M. Cohan.  His career extended well into the 1960s, with appearances on both the large and small screens.

The world of music has also had a noteworthy Jack Boyle, though not in the form of a musician.  Jack Boyle the promoter launched his career in the
early 1960s in the Washington DC area, running music clubs and night spots such as the Cellar Door and the Crazy Horse.  He later moved into full-time concert promotion, earning a reputation as a skilled negotiator and a tough-but-fair businessman.  Officially retired, in 1996 he was honored in
a New York ceremony for his profound and lasting impact on the concert business.

These half dozen characters are by no means the only Jack Boyles who confound any researcher digging for information about the creator of Boston
Blackie.  But they are the six most common Jacks who obscure the trail, and bedevil the hapless sap who thinks it would be fun to learn a bit more
about an obscure early 20th century crime writer.  The Jack Boyles of history have my respect, but they can also be the bane of my existence.

JBF  6/29/11

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